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tv   This Is Life With Lisa Ling  CNN  November 18, 2018 7:00pm-8:01pm PST

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[ horns honking ] what if you were so anxious that you had to isolate yourself from society. >> i'm never not dealing with it. >> what if it were easier for you to deal with pets than with people. >> i can't imagine not living without dogs. >> what if you went to endurance athlete to wheelchair bound in six months. >> this is my life. >> how would you cope? tonight we'll meet three people
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who overcame their odds by doing something that you might think is a joke. we're setting out on a strange trip. but stick with us. it's all about to make sense. ♪ think back on your childhood for a moment. do you remember the first time
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you saw mickey? how excited you were. the smile on your face. do you remember watching cartoons as a kid? and the happiness it brought you? entire industries have been built on this. on having kids experience this magic. but what if you never grew out of that feeling? there are people whose affinity for animal characters never went away. people like lindsey. >> you okay? >> sure. yes. >> the first thing i noticed about her is that her hands shake profusely. >> this is super informal, you know. we're just chatting. >> lindsey has social anxiety. sitting down for this interview is especially hard. is it possible to describe what is it like to live in that state of anxiousness >> it can be kind of difficult
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at times. normal things like going to the grocery store is really stressful for me. it's really a fear like, i'm in danger but, obviously, i'm not. >> the second thing i can't help but notice, is there are dogs every where. in the china cabinet. on the table. on the fridge. this love for dogs is what inspired lindsey to become a veterinary technician. >> does your leg hurt? just going take a little photo. >> on the job she cares for her furry patients. but there was a time in her life when dogs saved her. as a child lindsey was extremely shy and had trouble making friends. >> i was definitely awkward. i just remember being really, really nervous in new situations and anything that was different
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was stressful for me. >> the one thing that brought lindsey comfort was the family dog. >> we adopted an english springer spaniel named lucy and she was my best friend growing up. i really enjoyed having someone there who i could talk to and spend time with and be nonjudgmental. >> lindsey finally found a human soul mate online and got married seven years ago. she and josh have two things in common. he also has anxiety and they both love spaniels. >> if josh was not into dogs, would that be a deal breaker? >> absolutely been an issue. i can't imagine living without dogs. they've just been a special part of my life. >> lindsey has even got a side business making dog figurines. >> those are beautiful.
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these little sculptures lead her to a strange world where people are obsessed with animals and art as much as she is. these are furries. people who zip themselves up inside fur covered suits and transform. all over the world these animal superfans form groups online and hold meet ups in bars, bowling alleys and hotel convention centers. they first came on the scene in the late 1980s and since then they've become the subject of ridicule. mainstream media termed this as a deviate sexual activity. >> it was so different.
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everyone was just so welcoming and happy. >> while there was no sex cult, lindsey found a kind of freedom in the extreme creativity of the furry world. at sci-fi and comic book conventions people dress up as figures from comic books and movies. but furries create their own identities. no two furries are alike. >> my friend had there personas. and i was, i kind of want one. i feel left out now. >> lindsey drew a picture of a dog and called her leila. >> this is the very first drawing i ever did of her. >> after attended a few more furry conventions she decided to go all in. >> this is my first suit.
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>> and turned her persona into reality. >> josh, did you have any concerns about it? >> it was definitely a shock initially. >> the suit was expensive. some $2,500. but lindsey found a way to get josh on board. >> i happened to cross some videos from a group of furries and one of their big things they did was go to these charity events and work with children and immediately, that's what it to do. >> that was the point where i was like all right i'll get into the idea of you having this thing. >> stabilize me here. >> the moment lindsey puts on that suit, the shaking stops. and leila comes alive. >> when i first imagined this character i imagined her just like me. kind of shy and withdrawn. but quickly i realized the
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costume had a life of its own. the shyness was just gone. >> yeah. >> twice a month josh and lindsey hop in the car and head to one of her charity events. >> i just get super excited every time i put it on. i'm going to go out there and perform and make people happy. >> what's going on? there's a giant dog driving around. >> now anxious lindsey becomes bubbly and outgoing leila and at a charity event for children i finally get to witness her true persona. like most furries lindsey doesn't talk in costume. so josh acts as her interpreter. >> do you like cats? >> yeah. >> do you eat them? >> no. >> he has not in in becoming a furry, josh is happy to be her
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sidekick. >> i am astounded. lindsey is -- she's timid but the second she gets in that suit -- >> a switch. >> what was it like for you to discover this other dimension to your wife? >> definitely was something i had to get used to. but it's been very interesting to see her come out of herschel like that. >> lindsey is now diving in deeper and bringing josh along for the ride. in just a few days she's taking him and leila to a furry convention in seattle where she will interact not with children but with hundreds of other adults dressed as animals. >> there are people who are watching this right now, probably thinking this is weird. >> yes, it is weird. definitely weird.
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but it's fun. >> while lindsey gets ready for her journey, i continue with mine. nearly 3,000 miles from orlando i'm headed to meet another individual who has found refuge in the furry community. a man who calls himself a hermit and has moved deep into the woods, far from anyone. and who has experienced something from which many could never recover. true to you - and your skin? skin's true match? when you can't tell where your foundation ends and your skin begins, that's a true match. l'oréal's true match blends seamlessly for a true-to-you finish. now in 45 shades. it's perfect for me. find your true match. from l'oréal paris. [ snoring ]
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miles from civilization, in the middle of the woods is a man whose chosen to isolate himself from the world. [ dog barking ] in fact i'm his first visitor in four months. hi sean, how are you? >> come on in. >> thank you. >> we really are in the middle of nowhere. so this is where you live? >> yep. >> 45-year-old sean is a self-proclaimed hermit. a man of invention, he creates props for the local theater. >> this is the witch's staph from "into the woods." that's for when she was casting. >> this is like the mad scientist's workshop. >> i have projects going. it's called the conveyor belt of
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tomfoolery. >> who is this. >> this is the captain. >> the detail is pretty remarkable. >> i made the dreads myself. the resin cast is cast on my head. >> this is not only your creation but this is a part of you. >> very much so. >> as a child, sean was a military brat whose family moved often. unable to keep friends he retreated to the cartoon world. >> where did your interest in animated animal characters begin? >> anthropomorphic. i was around 10 years old. this cartoon came on and it blew my mind. >> what was it that had an impact on you >> i liked it was this imaginary
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world you could escape into. bad things happen but everything turned out okay. >> sean drew elaborate cartoons, enrolled in theater and later signed up to be the high school mascot. >> i didn't really play sports in high school, so that was my sports, performing. >> this artistic kid was the lewis and clark tiger for two years. but with a pressure to uphold the tradition of military service, sean traded one uniform for another. >> you go directly from high school into a situation where it's all very high charged, testosterone, and then you got this guy who does art and theater. yeah, it didn't turn out well. >> sean tells me his first year of service was the beginning of a nightmare. >> there's a group of guys that, they just started harassing me
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because they thought i was gay. and it progressed into being physically assaulted, and then it progressed into being sexually assaulted. >> how long did it go on? >> for about a year. sorry. >> it's okay. >> in this moment my heart breaks for sean. it becomes clear to me why he has chosen to isolate himself. >> excuse me. >> nearly six years later sean finished his military service and left with extreme ptsd. he saw numerous therapists and
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ultimately moved away from anything that could trigger his anxiety. i'm never not dealing with it. but being out here, there's a flow to this valley, with wildlife and the weather. it's very lonely. but one of the things that helps me with ptsd is projects. constant projects. >> with long days on his hands, sean found comfort in the imaginary world of his childhood. he began to create and experiment with cast play, dressing up as pop culture and sci-fi characters. then he came across a community where he could perform as the very thing he loved as a child, an animal. when you first found out about the world of the furries, what about it appealed to you? >> the acceptance. oh, my god you're cool. let me give you a hug. just very supportive and very
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nurturing environment. >> through the online furry community sean found a way to move forward and come back to society through his persona bones. >> right now he's an art piece. >> right now he's an art piece but he's going to come to life. >> he'll let you know he's alive. >> who is captain bones >> he's a creation out of necessity to evolve myself, to give myself more confidence. when i become boons, he gets a lot of attention. boons has game. >> he's popular with the ladies? >> oh, yeah. it could be the accents, it could be the dreads. >> sean has taken boons to comic book conventions and tested his persona out online. the response has been overwhelming. >> what is it like to inhabit this other persona that is confident and fearless? >> it's like going on vacation.
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everything that i carry with me and all of the issues that i can't escape from -- >> the ptsd. >> it kind of gets toned down. boons is one of the major coping mechanisms i come up. times i fall into the pit of depression and i climb right out because i got boons. >> now sean is taking boons to his very first furry event. >> do you think they are ready for captain boons? >> i don't really know what to expect. comic book conventions are different. i don't know how this is going to go. >> i'm excited to meet him. >> he's excited to meet you, i'm sure. to install the fiber-optics and small cells, and upgrade the towers that will change the way we learn, work and live.
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anthropomorphic
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there you go. >> oh, i missed. oh, no. >> 24-year-old alison is a gamer, seflf-described nerd anda former enyou're thence athlete. four years ago she was biking 50 miles a day and climbing mountains. she had a job as a sales rep and a promotion on the horizon. life was good.
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but this is alison now. experiencing pain so severe she's often confined to a wheelchair. it's been really hard and it was really scary, you know, when you realize oh, this isn't the way this is going. this is my life. >> at first alison thought it was her active lifestyle wearing her down. >> i'm to. maybe i'm just overdoing things. i kept getting tired and tired and i couldn't figure out why. >> then you got sick? >> then i got sick. i started having fevers constantly and started having seizure, a lot of seizures. i was having fire, six, seven, ten seizure as day. >> ever several hospitalizations alison was finally given multiple diagnoses. >> they are like yeah it's lupus. then he said you have a rare genetic mutation. >> due to the complexity of
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these overlapping conditions there's no effective treatment options available. >> how often do you think about the facts you think about being sick. >> i get up i don't have a lot of energy. maybe i'll just wear pajamas because i'm tired and sleep half the day. >> it's a situation she might find unbearable without her boyfriend john. >> here's your coffee. >> thank you. >> for the past two years he has been her rock. but john wasn't the only thing that kept alison going. while her body slowed down, her imagination ran wild. she began painting animals both real and mythical and then threw herself into the fantasy world she loved as a teenager. >> go ahead and role the d 20 twice. dungeons and dragons. >> i think i will be more stealth and go with the dagger. >> i would like to notch one of my alchemist fire arrows.
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>> you create a character for yourself. >> she let's fly with the last arrow directly into the enemy. >> yes! >> who is she? >> asheda is a stubborn darc darcy dar and she's a free spirit. >> that's your creation? >> yes. i can tell you their ancestry and how they live and, you know, where you might find one. >> alison decided to tap into her wild side and make a costume of asheda. >> i stumbled on the furry community. there's artists and writers and nerds. >> she connected with suit makers online and months later finally brought asheda to life. >> what's the rights stripe >> i've just been diagnosed with lupus.
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one of the tell tale signs is the lupus butterfly rash. so i decided to give her that mark so even though she has that it's not everything she is. >> how different is asheda from alison >> she's the other part of me that i used to be back when i was healthy. i was up and running and doing all sorts of things. i was always exploring. we were hunting for different things to do. i miss that. i miss what i used to be like. >> for alison, asheda is way for her to transport back to time. for me, face to electrifies with another furry it still feels surreal. for alison it's completely normal. >> putting the head on it's like i become asheda. at that moment i'm not the sick person in the wheelchair. you can pet her.
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[ growling ] >> i love it. alison found more than just a hobby, experienced suit makers can bring up to $10,000 a suit. though alison is just a beginner her biz is booming. >> at this point i'm filling up work for next year. >> did you ever think that you could make a living doing this? >> not a clue. i always had a big passion for wildlife but i never thought i would take the concept of being one with nature quite so literal. >> does this need to be clipped up the mid signal >> no. that's where the zipper goes. we'll sew it last. >> have you gotten john into furries. >> yeah. >> is he a furry. >> after we started dating, he
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was like hey i can make one? i said sure. >> john's character is a match for asheda and no they don't. >> there's a perception that furries are compromised of a bunch of sexual deviants. >> the community is not like that. some of it is there. but it's really unfortunate that they call the whole community that. >> to alison it's all about art and imagination. >> need help? >> i'm going put you to work. >> in john she found a partner to share that with. the two are about to head to seattle's highly-anticipated furry convention. where i'll reunite with everyone i met and experience the furry world in full force and fur. but allstate agents know that's where the similarity stops. if you're on park street in reno, nevada,
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in downtown seattle something is stirring. ♪ i'm entering a strange world, and i have no idea what to
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expect. over the next four days more thanle00 people will check in at the renaissance. the furries are taking over. this is my first exposure to the furry world and apparently it's not a furry convention without a furry parade. we have hundreds and hundreds of furries going through the hotel. what are guests going to think? in the chaos i run into some old friends. it's alison and her boyfriend john or i should say asheda and arcatex. it's a bizarre movie come to life. and i have to wonder why is
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everyone here? are they seeking something or just to have fun? at the center of the spectacle is one of the most enduring and loveable creations in the furry world. the furry behind me who is getting mobbed is named telephone and she's the most famous furry here. telephone is a mythical species called a dutch angel dragon. she's the convention's guest of honor and has more than 20,000 twitter followers around the world. >> can we get a picture with you? >> i just saw you got very, very emotional when you met telephone. >> yeah. she kind much showed me that it's okay to be how it to be. she's playful. she's joyful and she doesn't care what's going on. she's always happy. >> after the crowds disperse telephone invites me up to her
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hotel room. i'm curious to meet the celebrity behind the fur suit. hi telephone. telephone, i know you don't normally talk as telephone. >> yeah. >> can i ask you to take your head off? hello. >> hi. >> behind the mask is 24-year-old dean jarks a fur suit maker and performance artist from arizona who found fame nearly four years ago. >> can you make this meal? >> online telephone's playful spirit reached the masses. >> hey, telephone. >> her youtube vies have been viewed 3 million times. >> i saw this little girl who was crying when she met you. do you get that a lot? >> i do. it's really crazy to be able to make so many people happy just by being in a silly giant brown
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dragon. >> a lot of people here deal with social anxiety. was that ever an issue are for you? >> oh, absolutely. when i was younger, i was very shut off. for me to talk was like a huge deal to my mother. until i found this i didn't engage with people, outgoing but now i am. a lot of people here had something happen to them or have some kind of anxiety. being able to go to these conventions, it's that community that comes together. just like a giant family reunion for us. >> the furry community has clearly helped so many who have struggled and felt they didn't fit in. here furries feel they can be themselves. they can create. share their love of art with others and even speak openly about how to deal with life outside of their costumes. >> welcome to the overcoming anxiety and building coping
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skills or as i like to call it calm anxiety. >> sean the hermit i met in the woods leading one of the seminars. >> i find it funny i'm doing an anxiety panel at a furry con because i have post traumatic stress disorder and the anxiety derives from that. when i get really anxious i lock up. so i'm going to lose my train of thought because i'm totally anxious right now and -- sorry. when you're experiencing anxiety, what is something you feel? >> i over think everything and then my mind gets overloaded with processing. >> that's anxiety right there. and the number one thing i found to fight anxiety is directing that energy somewhere else. i dance in my live room
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constantly. i'm a hermit. i live in the woods. cooking, cleaning, dancing. always dancing. anybody else have a tool out there toucht throw out there. >> sometimes what i'll do is close my eyes for a few minutes until i'm okay and no one will know. >> you're in suit. >> sometimes the best thing for me to do is have a good friend. a couple of good friends. i just talk to them. >> the major thing you can do help people is support them. yeah. i think that's all i got. thank you for coming and congratulations for being here. >> after sweating it out here sean is now ready to leave all his issues behind and to escape into his persona. >> when i become boons i'm instantly like royalty. it changes the way you feel and it changes your stature and, you know, he's very authoritative
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but playfully dismissive. hello. how are you doing? would you like to be a part of the crew? i'll give you a hug. how's that? thank you. excuse me. hello. how are you? >> fantastic. >> thank you. >> the last time i talked to that guy he was in a cabin, a hermit by himself and now he just left me for a woman. >> hello. >> how are you? >> i'm doing quite well. snooifts amazing to see this anxiety ridden hermit now light up a room. >> after years of ptsd, sean
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tas as the debonair boons is a new man or beast. that's the appeal i guess of acfurry. it's a way to get comfortable in your own skin. and apparently it's not just for grown-ups. >> my name is kishka, russian for female cat. >> there's a lot of stigma and a lot of negativity that we got to get over. and get a front-row seat to plenty of entertainment. the volkswagen "drive to decide" event. get a volkswagen with america's best six-year, 72,000 mile limited warranty. i switched to sprint because they have a great network and i knew i'd save a ton of money.
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there's a points in every story where it to dig deeper. while the people i met on this journey were willing to share their identities with me and the world, much of this population chooses to remain anonymous. just who are they? i sit down with a man who goes by the name of uncle gagga. he's a chemist. his persona is a cock roach but instead of a fur suit he prefers to wear a lab coat and has been
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a fixture in the community for decades. >> what is a scientist doing with furries. >> what is a police officer doing with bunch of furries. what is a teacher doing with a bunch of furries. anybody out there can enjoy what this community has to offer. there's no limitation. it started with just a group of cartoon fans getting together. but the community really blossomed. >> in the late '80s and early '90s its origins were captured on video and now celebrated on the internet. these conventions attracted only a few dozen furries. but today there are nearly 90 independently organized events every year and hundreds of thousands of furry fans worldwide. >> there is a perception that furries are a bunch of sexual deviants. how do you respond to that? >> do sexual deviants exist in the world? yes, they do. but that certainly does not characterize what this community is about.
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it's healthy. admittedly it looks a little bit strange but doesn't have to be. people might tell you oh, pretending, imagining things that's for children. but everybody needs to step back and just let their imagination go. anybody who has lost the ability to do that has lost the ability to really feel like a human being. >> the adults here are clearly letting their inner children out to play. but i'm surprised to see that there are real kids here as well. with so much media coverage about the more adult elements of this community, i want to know what their parents think of this world? >> welcome, everybody this morning. >> is that meet and greets for people whose children who have gravitated to the furry world on their own. >> there are a number of parents here that have a lot of questions about this world and i
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think it's cool that they come here to support their kids. >> my name is koshka, russian for female cat. >> i'm a wolf. >> i'm pastel. >> pastel, welcome. >> i'm a husky. >> people have silly questions or silly ideas or don't know what to ask. parents don't know what to ask. don't laugh at your parents because they don't know what to ask. we want to hear what challenges you face with a kid as a furry. >> for positives for our daughter it's amazing. she has a lot of anxiety and she's not the same person out of suit as she is in suit. there's a lot of stigma and negativity out there that we need to get over. >> when i heard my daughter, oh, no, no, no way in hell i'm going to let my daughter -- >> what now? what do you see now as the
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difference? >> she's a very introverted person normally and this has made her -- yeah. outgoing. exactly. she runs up to people and makes friends and it's insane what she can do insuit she's so trusting. >> sure. >> so it scares, this place scares me a little bit. it's like i don't know who is under these suits and she just loves them all. so i'm here to. >> to reign in a little bit? >> were you going to say something first, gizmo? >> i made a good friend yesterday and i didn't have to talk to her, so it's awesome how nice people are in this community. >> that's exactly where we're at. okay, guys. >> after the panel, i catch up with lindsey. her reaction to the event surprises me. >> it was very emotional panel
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for me. [crying] >> if this was something i had found at their age, it would be huge for me and seeing these kids that are really coming out of their shells and finaling something they are passionate about and their parents learning and supporting them is wonderful to see. >> there were a lot of tears happening underneath that in. >> yes. >> for so many, finding this community after years of being ostracized is a pretty emotional process. people are forging furry friendships everywhere i turn. and i'm about to learn these bonds can last a lifetime. so when we roll out the nation's first 5g ultra wideband network, it'll be because we were the first to install the fiber-optics and small cells,
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do the work yourself. or get it done by a pro. all roads lead to 4-w-p. do your rig right. shop online or find your store at 4-w-p.com. after three days, anthro northwest is winding down. before the evening's festivities, i head to check in with sean to see how he faired at his first furry convention. you left a life of relative solitude, all of a sudden, you're in the midst of hundreds of furries. what was that like? >> it's a bit overwhelming.
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but there is pay off because a lot of them are doing the same thing i'm doing. they are covering an anxiety or some sort of social awkwardness that makes it hard for them so there is a relatability. >> do you think there could be a time you don't need captain boon and you can go to big venevents sean? >> that's the goal, to keep stepping forward. it's a progression of how i work on myself and how i've been fighting anxiety. >> is that why you did the panel? >> yeah, i have all this experience. i have to do something with it, and it's better to purposetive in the world than to continue eating away at the negativity. >> so this has been good? >> this has been really good. >> while sean digests all he's experienced, alison and john are
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gearing up for one of the convention's final events. >> which arm first? >> this. >> the masquerade ball. >> there we are. >> alison even fashioned a few special accents for the fur suits. a flower crown and a bow tie. >> there you go. >> he's been there behind me, supporting me, and seeing him embrace the things that i like to do has been a huge impact on my life. >> you look beautiful, significasugar. >> thank you. >> all right. i'd like to thank you guys for attending the formal masquerade ball.
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♪ ♪ >> john means the world to me. the love is still there regardless of whether we're dressed up as characters or not and it's always better doing the things you love when you can have someone you love to do it wit with. >> you have a very special moment. i'd like to hand the mic over. >> alison jeanette claire, would you marry me? >> oh, my god. yes. [ cheers ] >> despite all her hardships,
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alison at just 24 has found a life partner. [ cheers ] >> congratulations. did you have any idea at all that was going to happen? >> not at all. [ laughter ] >> it's been really fun to just watch the people we've followed because they really have transformed into these characters with so much energy and so much life. the moment they put those suits on, they just come alive. it's kind of cool that all these people have this outlet. it certainly and unconventional one but furries are just people who want to take a little vacation from day to day life.
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and i get it. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> there's no place else even remotely like it. everything great and all the world's ills all in one glorious messed up magical and maddening city. ♪

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